What makes you happy?

What makes you happy?

Mar 22
What makes you happy?

Think of all of the generally unhappy people you know.  What do they all have in common?  In my experience, unhappy people are generally critical.  They are quick to point out what isn’t perfect, what isn’t good, what could be better.  They are certainly capable of being grateful and pointing out what is good, but their “blink” seems to focus on what is “wrong.”

Contrast that with all of the generally happy people you know.  What do they all have in common?  In my experience, happy people are generally grateful.  While they are capable of pointing out what could be better, their “blink” seems to focus on what is “right.”

Think of a time when you gave a gift to an unhappy person.  How did they react?  How was their reaction different from when you gave a happy person a gift?

Who do you enjoy giving to more?

Consider these two examples from birthday parties I attended.  The first child, after opening a gift, would look at it briefly, toss it aside, and then say, “Next.”  The other child, after opening a gift, would exclaim, “How did you know I wanted this?!”

When you read these two accounts, what was your “blink?”  Was your first thought about the difference in the attitudes of the children or was your first thought about the difference between the gifts?

The first line of thought – the difference in attitudes – places “happiness” squarely upon the receiver.  The other line of thought places responsibility on the giver.  In other words, the difference in happiness between the two children is either based on the receiver or on the giver.  While this is never 100% of one or the other, each of us has a tendency to lean in one direction.  For some, their degree of happiness is based on how they choose to view what they receive in life.  For others, their degree of happiness is based more on what they receive.

Who would you expect to be happier?

Let’s look at it another way.  Suppose you are the giver.  You give a gift to one person who seems more grateful than your gift warrants.  You give the same gift to a different person, but that person makes you feel as if you somehow let them down.  When the next time comes to give gifts, how are you likely to respond to the two?  Who will get the nicer gift?  Who will you be happier to shop for?  Who will you most look forward to giving their gift?

This “locus of control” is the secret of happiness.  Generally happy people believe they carry a majority of the burden of their own happiness – happiness is what they choose to make of their life.  Generally unhappy people believe it is up to someone else to make them happy – happiness is about what someone else makes of their life.

Who has more control over their happiness – the person who believes it is up his or her self to choose to be happy, or the person who believes happiness is based on what someone else does (or doesn’t do)?

The second person has little to no control over their happiness – it is dependent on someone else.  In addition, nobody knows what this person wants better than his or her self.  This viewpoint creates a contradiction – the person who best knows what you want is you, so you are the most likely to give yourself the things that would make you happy, but you believe it is up to someone else to give those things to you and you continually find yourself disappointed.

People with an external locus of control have a tendency to see themselves as victims.  Life happens to them.  If good things happen then they’ll be happier than if bad things happen.

People with an internal locus of control have a tendency to see themselves as actors.  They happen to life.  Whether good or bad happens, they choose how they react to it.

Thus, it seems we find ourselves on a spectrum from Gratitude to Entitlement.  The closer someone is to Gratitude, the happier they seem to be.  The closer someone is to Entitlement, the more critical they seem to be.

Let’s test the theory.  How would you describe your attitude toward Congress – generally happy or generally unhappy?  Would you say that you are more critical or less critical of Congress?

How would you describe your attitude toward your family – generally happy or generally unhappy?  Would you say that you are more critical of them or less critical of them?

How would you describe your attitude about your job – generally happy or generally unhappy?  Would you say that you are more critical or less critical of your employment?

There’s definitely a link.  The question then is which causes which.

If you believe you would be happier if you were less critical, then you are saying you can make a choice.  If you believe you would be less critical if you were happier, then you are saying it is up to someone else.  One reflects more Gratitude.  One reflects more Entitlement.

I see this reflected all the time in the way people practice their religion.

Among people who pray, their prayers tend to take one of two flavors:

  1. Give me this so I can be happy
  2. I will be happy no matter what I get

Remember earlier when I posed a question to you as a giver?  To whom would you be most excited to give?  To whom would you want to give more?  Are you the kind of person you would want to give to?  Or are you the kind of person you would give to out of obligation?

Most Christians are known more for being critical than they are for being grateful.  Is it any wonder that so much of the world thinks Christians are miserable, unhappy people?

What if the key to changing that perception rests on you and not someone else?  When Jesus said, “Go and make disciples,” I think He meant for us to go, be grateful, and teach others how to be grateful.

2 comments

  1. Howard Cunningham

    Awesome read! It has been a while since I have been to you site, but now I know I have missed out on words of wisdom. I eill visit way more often now. Love ya Brother! Keep spreading The Good News!

    • Thank you so much for the kind words, Howard. Any wisdom that you find here has to come from God — it couldn’t come from me!

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